|Visitors Examine Scrapbook in Malaga Island Exhibit - P. Erikson photo|
The exhibition tells the controversial story of the poor community of diverse ethnicity that lived on Malaga, a 42-acre island at the mouth of the New Meadows River in Phippsburg, Maine. Archaeological artifacts, historical photographs, objects, documents, and news stories from 1850 -1912 bring the story to life. It has been called "A Story Best Left Untold."
"The Malaga Island community, numbering about 40, included fishermen, laborers, and their families. They were caught in a time of great change for Maine in the early 1900s. As fishing and shipbuilding economies declined along the coast, Maine officials looked to tourism as a new source of economic growth. Not pristine or traditional, Malaga Island's community did not conform to a marketable image of mid-coast Maine. Racism, eugenics, and social reform also played a part in the resulting government-sanctioned effort to send people from their homes. All traces of the community were removed, even the school and cemetery, " explained Museum Director J.R. Phillips in a press release.
|Malaga Island Family (courtesy Maine State Museum)|
Maine State Museum Chief Educator Joanna Torow comments "Teachers are already expressing great enthusiasm for using materials and programs about Malaga Island to explore civil rights, civic engagement, and the role of government in Maine, both past and present." Given my involvement as an instructional consultant for the Malaga educational program, this Heritage in Maine blog will be a forum for discussing some of the challenges and opportunities of teaching this subject matter.
"Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives," will be on view at the Maine State Museum in Augusta from May 19, 2012 - May 26, 2013. Opening day activities will include gallery talks by University of Southern Maine archaeologists, the Maine State Museum's curator, and a representative from Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Educational activities for school-age children and their families will be available all day.